Meet the Golfer: William Sjaichudin

Simon Reynolds

Dec 11,2014

William Sjaichudin teeing off in full flow during his final round 65 during the Ciputra Golfpreneur ADT event August 21st – 24th: photo courtesy of An An Arto

I had the pleasure to meet William Sjaichudin on one of his practice days at Royale Jakarta, as he prepares diligently for the BRI Bank Indonesian Open from 4th – 7th of December 2014 from Damai Indah’s PIK Course. William Sjaichudin’s first year as a professional has had its highs and lows for the 24 year old. A final round 65 at the Asian Development Tour’s  Ciputra Golfpreneur event at BSD  for a tied 2nd place finish, also another 2nd place finish at the Panasonic Open Indonesia in October, the combination of these two second place finishes propelled him up the PGTI Order of Merit into 2nd place behind only George Gandranata on the local professional circuit. Yet the lows will also be reflected upon, numerous missed cuts on Asian Tour events where playing on tight, tree-lined, old-school courses have caused some problems: “ it’s been tough finding the fairway, and my driving accuracy has not been good enough,” says a honest and frank William Sjaichudin, on an area of his game that must improve come 2015. A lot of the Asian Tour courses are unlike the US Style courses he learnt to play on whilst competing successfully in collegiate golf in the US for Purdue. With the upcoming Indonesian Open and the Indonesian Golf Tour Championship coming up at the start of December there is plenty to play in order to end 2014 on a high.

Q&A Session from Royale Jakarta driving range: November 19th 2014:
It is an exciting time for golf here in Indonesia, with the birth of the PGTI Indonesian Golf Tour, have you noticed the playing standard of the local Indonesian players improving, having played more regular competitive events?

For sure, as you can see the progress from the beginning of the year, scores of a couple under par were winning local events. As 2014 progressed scores were getting lower and lower, with a higher number of competitors shooting rounds under par during events. As this first season comes to a close the lever of competition is much better overall resulting in more exciting and demanding playing conditions for all players involved.

How did you get into the game of Golf? Were you encouraged by your family to play the game?

Back in the day my father used to play golf every single day. He used to frequently play golf with Bob Hasan at Matoa. My father encouraged me to learn the game and as a youngster there was a driving range near my house in Ancol (no longer active). After kindergarten I would follow my father there when I was just 4-5 years old. I started getting a little serious when I was 7, playing nearly every day and also practicing a lot. I remember competing in my first junior event when I was 8 years old. I remember playing with Rory Hie during this first event. When I was 11 years old my entire family moved to Australia, where I continued my golfing progress competing in junior events and I also had a regular coach. I remember playing in the same event as Jason Day, even at that age he was an incredible golfer, un-surprisingly he won the event.

What was the highlight of your junior golf career?

When I was 15 I moved to the United States, where I attended the David Leadbetter academy. Junior golf is well represented there with regular AJGA events: I played three years on the AJGA circuit which was the highlight, which was a great experience, where I got to play with players like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. The AJGA was really well setup with lower level and higher level events, so I always had top level junior events to compete against the very best junior golfer in the USA. So from a young age I was exposed to competitive, tournament golf against very good golfers, it was a priceless experience. If you played well in the lower level events you qualified for the higher level events like the FootJoy invitational where junior golfers qualify from all over the world. I came 2nd in this event when I was 17, a shot ahead of Jordan Spieth.

Give us an insight into your experiences playing collegiate golf in the US at Purdue University, did you make the team in your first year?

Thankfully due to my good performances during AJGA I was offered a scholarship to study and play golf at Purdue Univerity. Playing collegiate golf was incredible and I learnt vast amounts about playing tournament golf. Week and week out you are competing against the very best amateur golfers in the world, so it keeps your game very sharp and you are always playing to keep your name on the team-sheet. It keeps you motivated to keep practicing and to shoot low scores, otherwise another team player may take your place on match day. The level of golf was unbelievable, players were shooting 65’s and 66’s often during tournaments, it forced you to play aggressively and go for birdies. Every year the university’s recruits 5 or 6 new players, so if you don’t keep improving your game your spot is in jeopardy.

Playing in AJGA and US Collegiate golf events you must have played on many of the top golf courses in America, how do Indonesia’s top courses like Royale Jakarta and BSD rank alongside them?

Royale Jakarta with its length, difficulty and practice facilities would definitely hold its own against some of the best courses in the US. There is no doubt if an American collegiate golfer or tour pro came to play in Royale they would most likely be impressed by the golf course and the setup onsite. I’ve played on several courses in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia this season on tour and for me generally the best Indonesian courses are more similar to the top standard of US Courses in terms of length and course layout.

What would be your Top 5 courses to play on in Indonesia?

Royale Jakarta, Pondok Indah, BSD, Pantai Indah Kapuk, and last but not least either Jababeka or Imperial rank as my favorites. On these courses we get to play designs by Robert Trent Jones Jnr, Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nick Faldo we are lucky here in Indonesia.

So we come the conclusion of your first year as a professional, how would you reflect on your 2014 season?
To be honest, I didn’t have a good year this year. I struggled with certain aspects of my game. I really learnt the difference of being a pro and playing professional golf. With money and tour cards at stake, the level of pressure and competition is far more intense. I have learnt that to play well and compete on the Asian Tour you don’t have to be particularly long off the tee, you just have to be very accurate and consistent. Driving accuracy is what I really have to work on to compete more and make cuts next year on the  Asian Tour.  Lot of the golf courses on the Asian Tour play very short compared to the US, but they’re very tight. If you can hit the fairways you will be in contention if not it will be very hard to compete and shoot low scores. Now I know what I need to work on so I can come back better in 2015.

William Sjaichudin took a tea break with me to sit down and chat at the driving range at his home course Royale Jakarta, as he prepares for the BRI Bank Indonesian Open at PIK from the 4th – 7th of December. It’s a course that suits his aggressive style of play off the tee and he shot a second round 68 there during the Panasonic  Open Indonesia earlier in the year on the way to a second place finish.